How I Use My Time Effectively To Work My Passions And Achieve My Goals

 Photo via  Flickr

Photo via Flickr

For those who know me, I'm always working on at least three things, if not more. Currently, I'm working full time as a strategy consultant, managing two websites (this one and TheNewTutor.com), finishing up the second edition of Crazy Enough To Try (surprise!), and a host of other smaller activities.

I'm also trying to fit in time for fun, spending time with my girlfriend, family and friendships, helping others, and continuously learning. So the questions is, how do I do it?

Well, I can sum it up in one sentence. Use Every Minute Wisely. 

That's it. We all have the same amount of time in the world, some of us have more responsibilities than others (I know plenty who put me to shame), but we do the best we can with what we have.

Why does this matter, why does time management even become an issue for those who are working their passions, when you should be just happy to be where you are? 

Simple: If you're working your passion, you don't have time to waste.

There will always be something greater you want to achieve, whether that's taking a hobby to the next level, building that business even larger, or just to work on ways to spend more time working on the elements of your passion you enjoy, and less on what you don't. 

Now when I say to use your time wisely, there's obviously a million different ways to do that, so I'm going to jump into the ways that I try to use my time wisely, including my top strategy I use everyday, and hopefully that will help spark some ideas for you.

Always Have Something To Do With You

In this connected age, it's almost impossible to be completely without something to do. Whether that's a book to read, an email you planned on writing, or a phone call you forgot to make, it's imperative that you use what time you have. When I'm waiting for a train, I'm usually sending out an email, or reading through articles I saved up.

If you're on line at the grocery store, it's easy to knock out 5-10 emails instead of staring at the person in front of you wondering why they think 40 items in the an express lane is ok. 

Batch Process

I'm still working on this, but dealing with things as a batch, instead of as they come in, makes a huge difference in how I prioritize my time. Whether that's reading and answering emails, or checking news updates, or catching up on your favorite websites, going back and forth wastes time.

Here's an example. We all know that true multitasking doesn't exist, instead it's just switching back and forth very quickly, but let's ignore that for now. Imagine you were awesome at switching tasks in your head. The minute a new email shows up in front of you, you're able to immediately stop what you're doing and instantly focus in. Just the time it takes for you to switch windows and back, let's say 2 seconds, adds up. I get anywhere from 50-150 emails in a given day. Most are not urgent, or even that important. But if I lost 2 seconds each time just for switching windows, that's up to 5 minutes just switching windows

In reality, it's more like 5-10 seconds since I need to figure out what the email is saying, if I need to respond and what to do with it afterwards. That's up to 25 minutes just moving back and forth. Everyday. Forget about if we added on the time it takes to get back into your rhythm with what you were doing before you were interrupted. Not worth it.

Think

There's nothing like actually using your time to think about what you're doing and what you're attempting to accomplish. It's not rocket science, but if you have the time, why not use it?

My absolute favorite time to think is in the shower, but really I'm always thinking. If I'm walking down the street, there's a good chance that I'm looking around making sure I'm not about to get hit by a car and then wondering how best to develop a system to pull together the new idea I had and who to contact about it.

By thinking when I'm doing otherwise automatic tasks, I can reclaim a little bit of that time that I need to "waste".

Develop Systems

There's a time to think and there's a time to do. As a former process engineer, I'm all about systems. If you do something over and over again, having a system helps twofold. The first way is it makes it easier. Imagine if everytime you wanted to eat a bowl of cereal you had to search the whole house for a bowl, a spoon, cereal, and milk. It would take you much longer than it needed to and you'd probably give up if you weren't going to starve to death. Luckily we have systems in place. The utensils go in the same place everytime. The milk is always in the fridge and the cereal in the same spot. Instead of taking minutes, the process of getting a bowl together can be done in 30 seconds. Much easier (and faster).

The second benefit is that you get better at something the more you do it. So if you have a system in place, you don't have to keep learning something new. On top of that you can find where you're wasting time and get rid of it.

Approach your life in the same way. If you are constantly spending time doing the same thing, develop a system to simplify it. It doesn't have to be a perfectly efficient well oiled machine that would make a manufacturing line proud, but something to save you time and effort.  

Get Help 

I'm new to this, but I've been amazed at the results thus far. Sometimes you're not the best person for the task. That's ok. You can't be the best at everything and it's great to know that. For me, the most recent example has been design. I have all these ideas about how I want a new invention/product/book cover to look, but when it comes to getting it down on paper, it falls flat. That's ok. I find someone else to do it instead. Saves me time and frustration.

This could be business related or day to day tasks and chores. Your time is valuable and at some point you have to decide what is more important: the task or the time? This doesn't mean you should get a personal driver since you hate sitting traffic obviously (unless you have money like that, in which case call me, I got some things we can talk about). What it does mean, especially if your goal is to start a business, is to learn when to delegate, when to ask someone for help, and when to say "I could spend 2 days trying to get this right, or pay $20 to get it done in an hour so I can move to the next step."

Focus

My number one strategy and where I see the most progress is when I focus. I mentioned before that it's great to look outside your work, and that's true at a high level, but when your feet hit the ground, your only goal for the next 15 minutes, hour, or day should be completing this task, moving forward this project.

Come up every now and then, of course, but only when it's needed and with a purpose. If you're going to work, then work. If you're going to take a break, then take a break. Whichever it is, decide, don't just let it happen. Going half and half suffers from that same problem I mentioned before with batch processing. It's inefficient and maybe it's the engineer in me, but inefficiencies really annoy me. They're wastes of time and I hate wasting time.

I'm not perfect and I make mistakes, but I find when I do follow this advice my productivity goes through the roof. and when my productivity is high, my passions are moving full steam ahead, and I'm a happy camper.

What are some of your strategies for using your time wisely?

- Ryan